Some Lives Goes On
(The aquarium arrived as expected on Friday and it's astounding, but I have a more important piece to write.)
Even when we feel like it most assuredly won't, life continues. The sun rises and sets, the seasons change, the cat box needs to be emptied, and bills must be paid.
With Tracker's death, I felt empty. The day to day doings felt useless. Who cares if the phone bill gets paid? What use in eating dinner? Yet habits and duty called, and those things continued to be done.
With every task came its associated thoughts. Dinner brought memories of the care with which we'd not fed Tracker table scraps at his young age (both for learning not to beg, and for his growing body's health). Shutting things down for the night brought a quick reminder to "put the dog out." Working on our still-evolving house brought memories of Tracker's comical and pathetic howling outside the back door during that last painting party.
So many good and painful memories, attacking me at every turn. Tracker's daintiness when eating, his good-natured acceptance of being handled, his hearty nose-thrust when teasing you with a toy. His race to the printer stand whenever the printer was turned on (how did he know?), his tendency to jump in the shower before you could, his stoic obsession to the duty of harassing the cat at every opportunity. His way of being a ham when it counted, and his excellent beginnings in obedience class.
Though I tried not to, I often found my thoughts returning to his last hours. Why and how did he get out of the backyard? The dog he was staying with was still there, the gates shut. Did he climb the fence or was he let out? I could envision either one happening -- he suddenly learns he can get over a six-foot fence (Shelties do it all the time in agility trials) or someone thinks they can get into the yard so they open the gate. Out comes Tracker, all wiggles as he wags his tail at his rescuer. Then comes Bob, all snarls and teeth. The gate is slammed shut, leaving one dog in and one dog out.
Why did he travel? Where did he think he was going?
Tracker didn't know about cars.
By the time we got the call and were out looking for him, his body had already been picked up by Animal Control. By the time I asked God to watch over him, he was already gone.
When we made the decision to put Sindar to sleep, we were braced for the absence of a dog. Even ready for it, it was hard. The silences and the emptiness of the house were strange, unfamiliar things. We agonized over the decision, and we agonized over whether to get another dog. It took us a couple of months to decide to get Tracker. When we did, we geared ourselves mentally for another twelve to eighteen years of having a dog around.
Suddenly that was gone. Vanished, in the blink of a driver's eye, the squeal of brakes. What happened to my twelve to eighteen years? Cheated, I felt. Robbed. And I began to think of getting another dog. Not as a replacement, as someone told me so profoundly, but as a distraction.
When I remembered to put the dog out, there would actually be a dog to put out. When I saw the "nuclear cow" that was Tracker's favorite toy, there would be another dog around to whom it belonged.
I think I talked Harry into it, since I don't think he was quite ready. Still, he's very patient with me and we began to search for another dog.
We saw and decided against a puppy in our town. At six and a half weeks old, it was very cute, but we felt that was too young for the little guy to be sold and while the house was immaculate, the yard the pups were in was dirty and the mom smelled like crap. Literally.
I looked online for Sheltie breeders and found one that sounded hopeful. She had a pup who was almost five months old. A beautiful pup, she said. So we drove to her place, about two and a half hours away.
Tyler, the "five months old Tuesday" pup, is short. Since we'd been used to tall and lanky, he looked very short. But he immediately came to both of us and demanded to be petted. Tracker never really liked petting. Tyler's markings are different. He has a lot more white in the collar area, and less on his face. He's also a lot stockier than we're used to.
We spent some time getting to know Tyler in his environment. He was alert, attentive, playful, and very, very determined that if there was an unoccupied hand, it should be +petting him. We took Tyler home with us.
We have, however, changed his name. "Tyler" wasn't something we were too keen on, but if he'd answered to it, we might have kept it. Repeated usages elicited no response. Even using "Ty-Ty" which was the affectionate version, didn't get an answer. Not even so much as a cocked ear.
What to call him?
We were warned: Tyler gets carsick. Okay, we can deal with that.
Well, yes, in the two and a half hour drive home, Tyler got sick. A lot. (Since then, we've found his limit is about 15 minutes.) We stopped twice to pick up paper towels. Poor Harry had to drive the entire time (I had intended to share the chore) because he'd rather do that than catch vomit. (I don't blame him.)
Tyler's new name? Bounty... after the yards and yards of paper towels we used.
He doesn't react at all when the printer is turned on, and he doesn't race us to the shower. He doesn't understand the commands "heel," "sit," "stay," "floor," or "mine."
He does understand "no," so it's just a matter of learning which parts of the house are "no" and which aren't. And growing up enough to jump up on to the bed.
He's a lover, and an explorer. And he's got the most endearing habit of coming up into your lap and collapsing sideways against you, as if to say, "Here I am. Pet me."
Some people say it's too soon. They're wrong.
We haven't stopped grieving for Tracker. We've simply started loving Bounty, too.
Copyright 2013 Michelle Hakala